Write your own damned story

Shit like this pisses me off.

Liberal Anger Erupts Against Late Playwright Edward Albee After His Estate Blocks Casting of Black Actor
But Albee, who died last September, has gone from liberal darling to cultural pariah overnight after his estate blocked the casting of a black actor in an Oregon production of Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?
[…]
In a letter to Streeter, Sam Rudy, a spokesman for the estate, defended the decision to forego ‘colorblind’ casting: “It is important to note that Mr. Albee wrote Nick as a Caucasian character, whose blonde hair and blue eyes are remarked on frequently in the play, even alluding to Nick’s likeness as that of an Aryan of Nazi racial ideology.

Would Streeter do a production about Harriet Tubman played by an Asian trans man?

Well… probably. But he could bloody well write the story himself.

If he has a message he wants to send to the world, he can write an original work. But that’s hard; it requires imagination, new ideas. It’s so much easier for hacks to take someone else’s tale and make it “edgier” or something. A black man in a white college professor’s home in 1962 would necessarily be a different story than WAOVW. So don’t call it that.

The only reason to do that is to trade on another person’s name and reputation, rather like identity theft.

Oh Brother, Where Art Thou? was entertaining as hell. Original ideas… and it took me a few minutes to realize I was seeing an amusing take on The Odyssey. But they didn’t steal the name.

Ditto Westside Story, a clever update of a classic tale into a rather different cultural millieu.

But… Nick was Aryan, not black. In 1962 America it made a difference (consider Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner).

Khan Noonien Singh was a Sikh, a deposed warlord on the run. Not a Brit working for the Federation. Swapping the Kirk/Spock lines around from one movie to the next is not cleverly imaginative either; it’s a hack gimmick. It’s not creative. But calling it a “reboot” let them slap the crowd-drawing ST logo on it.

“Pappy” Jack Holloway was a curmudgeonly independent prospector/gunslinger. Not a metrosexual working for the Company. Again, warping a story isn’t in itself creative. But stealing Piper’s title Little Fuzzy let him attract actual Piper fans (albeit briefly).

If you think you have a neat story idea, write it and put your own name and title on it.* If you really think you can do good stuff in another person’s fictional universe, do what John Ringo did when he wrote some stuff in Larry Correia’s Monster Hunters world: he got Correia’s permission and ran the drafts though him for continuity and consistency checks. Result: some good books that truly are part of Correia’s universe, with Ringo’s own unique spin.

Screwing with another writer’s work is simply wrong.


* Only once have I written something in another writer’s universe. In the ’90s, some young people in a Babylon 5 fan forum started a fanfic chain story where they placed forum members onto the B5 station. One of them inserted me into an awkward situtation and forwarded the story to me. I felt obliged to resolve my fictional dilemma, and returned the favor to the culprit. The story was a private, never-to-be-published joke. I don’t recall definitely, but I think it may have been sent to B5’s creator Joe Straczynski — also a forum member — in the expectation that he’d appreciate the humor.